During a fundraising dinner, the election-denying, far-right leader of the Michigan Republican Party was reportedly caught tripling down on an offensive tweet that trivializes the Holocaust.
MICHIGAN—Michigan Republican Chairwoman Kristina Karamo has tripled down on an offensive tweet that likened recent gun safety legislation in Michigan to the genocide of 6 million Jews during the Holocaust, according to leaked audio reportedly obtained by the Daily Beast.
The controversy began in March with a single post from the Michigan Republican Party’s official Twitter and Facebook accounts, which used a misleading Ronald Regan quote to suggest that Democrats in the Legislature are trying to pass bills that would “disarm” Michigan gun owners.
Accompanying the post was an image from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, which showed wedding rings seized from Jewish prisoners in a Nazi concentration camp during World War II. The post quickly evoked immediate outrage—particularly from the Jewish community—for trying to draw a connection between the bills and the Holocaust.
Despite calls from the Republican Jewish Coalition and hundreds of other Michiganders to delete the post, Karamo refused to do so and has yet to issue an apology for offending anyone.
And last month, at a fundraising dinner in Montcalm County, she reportedly took it a step further:
According to leaked audio reportedly obtained by the Daily Beast, Karamo said that anger over the tweet was “hilarious, completely hilarious.” She also said that multiple Michiganders have tried to explain to her how the tweet was encouraging both white supremacy and xenophobia.
“I just laugh so hard,” Karamo reportedly told the dinner guests. “They’re still going on and on about that. Are you going to apologize? I’m like ‘really, are you guys still going on about this?’”
Karamo—who still refuses to concede to Secretary of State Jocelyn Benson despite an overwhelming defeat in November—took charge of the state Republican Party in February. In her remarks last month, she also reportedly laid bare how she views the role of firearms.
“Us being armed is not about stopping a burglar,” Karamo reportedly said. “It’s not about hunting. It’s about stopping a tyrannical government. And if you know a thing or two about history, we know that governments have a tendency to be very abusive to the citizenry.”
Mentioning “basic things like history” on several occasions to defend the Holocaust meme, Karamo also reportedly depicted Democratic opposition as “very violent” and “Godless people.”
The gun safety package referenced in the post was introduced in response to two mass shootings in Michigan within the last 18 months—including this year’s mass shooting at Michigan State University that left three students dead and several others injured.
The bills, which have since been passed into law, will add new requirements for universal background checks, safe storage of guns, and create extreme risk protection orders, known as red flag laws.
Red flag laws, which exist in at least 20 other states, are intended to temporarily remove guns from people with potentially violent behavior, but only through a judge’s order and at the request of law enforcement or family members in hopes of preventing them from hurting themselves or others.
Despite what Karamo and other extremists may believe, the laws would not give the government broad authority to “disarm” Michiganders. An Associated Press analysis found many of the states with red flag laws used them sparingly. And in the rare cases where they’ve been used, research shows they can save lives by preventing mass shooting and suicides.
Still, Karamo went on to defend the post on Twitter as the criticism rolled in from across the state—from everyday Michiganders, faith-based groups, and even her fellow Republicans.
Matt Brooks, chief executive of the Republican Jewish Coalition, said the post was “absolutely inappropriate and offensive and should be taken down immediately.” The Anti-Defamation League tweeted that “using the Holocaust as a way to score cheap political points in the debate over gun control is unacceptable and trivializes the memory of millions murdered by the Nazis.”
Karamo also called a press conference to address the social media post—and used the opportunity to break into a brief debate with Rabbi Asher Lopatin, the executive director of the Jewish Relations Council, who was seated in the front row. Lopatin told Karamo that the Jewish community was “hurting and offended” by the post, and that it showed a “lack of sensitivity.”
Karamo still pushed back, claiming that Lopatin’s feedback—and that of all others who were offended by the post—was “disingenuous”, “dishonest,” and “purely politically motivated.”
“Any notion that this is somehow offensive or bigoted is flat-out dishonest,” she said.
Karamo lost her secretary of state race in the midterms by 14 percentage points after mounting a campaign filled with election conspiracies and bigoted rhetoric—including comparing abortion to child sacrifice; falsely claiming that Donald Trump won the 2020 election, downplaying the Jan. 6 insurrection; condemning LGBTQ relationships; accusing women of being addicted to porn; and declaring that couples who live together before marriage somehow opens the door to pedophilia.
A judge this month also ordered Karamo and others to pay more than $58,000 in legal fees that were incurred by the Detroit clerk’s office fighting a frivolous lawsuit Republicans filed last year challenging absentee voting in the city. In an order signed last week, Wayne County Circuit Court Judge Timothy Kenny said the lawsuit was “rife with speculation, an absence of facts and a lack of understanding of Michigan election statutes and Detroit absentee ballot procedures.”
The social media posts from the Michigan Republican Party follow a recent wave of comparisons to the Holocaust and Nazis that scholars and organizations have said are concerning. Earlier this year, Pope Francis compared Nicaragua’s repression of Catholics to Adolf Hitler’s rule in Germany, while in Britain, a BBC sportscaster also likened the nation’s asylum policy to 1930s Germany, resulting in his brief suspension and a national uproar.
The comparisons also come at a time of growing anti-Semitism, which has had significant consequences. Earlier this year, a man was charged with threatening the lives of Jewish public officials—including Michigan Attorney General Dana Nessel—after tweeting that he would “carry out the punishment of death to anyone” who is Jewish in the state’s government. Michigan also had the fourth most reported white supremacist propaganda of any state in 2022, reports show.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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